Over a decade in the making, Art AIDS America is a ground breaking art show making its debut at the Tacoma Art Museum on October 3, 2015. Curated by Rock Hushka, Chief Curator at TAM and Jonathan David Katz, Director, Visual Studies Doctoral Program at the University at Buffalo, the exhibit will remain at the Tacoma Art Museum through January 10, 2016 before moving to the Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University, GA from Feb to May of 2016, then ending up at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, NY from June to September of 2016.
From the press release:
Art AIDS America is a story of resilience and beauty revealed through art, and the community that gathered to bring hope and change. While recognizing and honoring loss and grief, it refutes the narrative that AIDS is only a tragic tangent in American art, exploring how artists’ responses to the crisis and its legacy continue to inform contemporary American art. These artworks offer a vibrant representation of community, caring, creativity and activism. And, Art AIDS America will serve as a vivid reminder that the crisis is not over; HIV infections are increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV.
“AIDS fundamentally changed American art, remaking its communicative strategies, its market, its emotional pitch and ‒ not least ‒ its political possibilities. But we’ve repressed the role of AIDS in the making of contemporary American culture, as we’ve repressed the role of AIDS in every other aspect of our lives. This exhibition underscores how powerfully a plague that is still with us has changed us,” says Katz. “Art AIDS America creates spaces for mourning and loss, yes, but also for anger and for joy, for political resistance and for humor, for horror, and for eroticism.”
The exhibition assembles 125 significant works in a wide range of media. The artists are diverse, including the internationally acclaimed such as Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Martin Wong, and those not yet as widely celebrated such as Luis Cruz Azaceta, Chloe Dzubilo, Derek Jackson, Kia Labeija, and Joey Terrill. The works date from 1981 to today, and some, like Catherine Opie’s photographs of the 1986 AIDS/ARC vigil in San Francisco, will be on public view for the first time.
“Art reflects and reacts to social, cultural, and political climates, and in the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS has been a constant presence,” says Hushka. “So many of us recall friends, family, and partners we have lost and the terror of the early years of the crisis, while younger people are just learning this story. We seek to create a deeper understanding of the legacy of HIV/AIDS in contemporary American art, and encourage our visitors to see their experiences in these works.”
Works in the exhibition will generally fall into two categories: art with a clear tie to AIDS, and art that requires the viewer to look beyond the surface to understand its connection to HIV/AIDS. Some artists addressed the AIDS crisis through activist works, community projects, graphics, and direct political statements. For example, the collective ACT UP NY/Gran Fury’s installation Let the Record Show… sears the words of public officials whose actions inflamed the crisis, including the silence of President Ronald Reagan, who would not speak publicly about AIDS until 1987. Other artists use camouflage, coding, misdirection, symbols, or other covert strategies to address the social, political, and physical impacts of HIV. An example is Robert Sherer’s beautifully rendered Sweet Williams, a basket of cut flowers, painted in HIV-negative and HIV-positive blood, about the untimely deaths of so many young men. The exhibition will be organized roughly by works created pre- and post-cocktail (in this case, ‘cocktail’ refers to the combination of drugs and therapies used to manage HIV and prevent the development of AIDS).
Art AIDS America is organized by Tacoma Art Museum in partnership with The Bronx Museum of the Arts, and co-curated by Jonathan David Katz, Director, Visual Studies Doctoral Program at the University at Buffalo (The State University of New York), and Rock Hushka, Chief Curator at Tacoma Art Museum. Generous support provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, and Gilead Sciences, Inc. The presentation of the preview exhibition Art AIDS America was made possible by the City of West Hollywood and The David Geffen Foundation.
An opening celebration event will be held October 3, 2016. Free to TAM members (who need to RSVP) and available to non-members with paid admission…go HERE to buy tickets to the event.
1701 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, WA 98402
Tuesday–Sunday 10 am–5 pm
Free Third Thursday 5 pm–8 pm
Students, Military, Seniors (65 +):$12
Family (2 adults and up to 4 children under 18): $35
Children age 5 and under: Free
Audio Tour: Free with paid admission, $2 for members and during free admission hours